sila, a project by Melissa F Clarke, is a generative audio-visual installation that employs algorithms to give a sense of shape shifting, falling ice, and climatic cycles. It is an installation about arctic ice and the Greenlandic culture surrounding it. sila explores Clarke’s 2012 expedition up the northwest coast of greenland through video, sculpture, sound, and printed works.

The first iteration premiered in Montreal in the sight and sound festival with Eastern Bloc. The second stage of the work was exhibited at Reverse Gallery in Brooklyn. There are two areas for this installation. In the main area, a mixture of oil and water slowly drips onto a glass and paper suspended sculpture. The sculpture is also a screen for video, which is reflected at many angles throughout the room to create an immersive experience. Water drips from hidden apparatuses above in synced intervals using motors, and drips with the sound as the video plays out.  The paper between the glass disintegrates, creating the feeling of the process of melting, decay and entropy. Pieces of glass fall and break. The sculpture changes. The video and sound go through cycles of audible textures and recognizable images to washes of color, sometimes verging on nothingness. The sound is sonified data, water, Greenlandic voices and ice that plays out on multiple speakers. In the second area one sees dozens of small photos of ice and daily Greenlandic life, including hunters, youth, soccer games and family dinners, as well as images pulled from the video.












Images are displayed in thirteen rows.  Each row depicts a place in Greenland  that Clarke traveled to in the summer of 2012.  Rows contain daily life images, images of ice, and video stills, composed by compositing every piece of ice captured while in the regions using custom algorithms. Algorithms that create the water and oil drip also relate to these regions.

The ice sheet in Greenland is the second largest ice body in the world. Today we live in a consciousness of the arctic and the poles as part of climate change that is wrapped up in politics over resources such as oil, minerals, and gas. There is also a human element, local stakeholders, and a culture directly related to and informed by the ice. The wall explores the region through ideas of data retrieval and climate change research in one of the largest islands with a first nation population. This population has much at stake with newly gained independence as well as the direct affects of climate change.

sila Sound: sample The sound created for the installation, and to be released soon on a cd/dvd, contains field recordings captured at each of the above locations mentioned for the images. Also included in the sound is sonified data describing the peoples, climate, and geological past and present around greenland and the large ice sheet that covers most of the island.

sila Video: sample  Video projected on the glass, which will be published in the dvd, was created using thousands of images of ice Clarke shot along the coast and as she traveled the Arctic waters around Greenland.  The images are composited into impossible topographies using an algorithm which compares localized areas of brightness.

This installation was made possible by Ed Bear, who collaborated on the engineering and fabrication design. And, Luke Dubois helped develop the visual software algorithm collaboration.


motor + tubes used for the installation

melissa’s performance with glass and an early sila installation prototype

some materials used in sila

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